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Chicken Sajji – Whole Chicken Cooked on a Skewer

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This spicy chicken sajji recipe is one for lazy days when you have a lot of time on your hands.

When you consider the fact that it takes a good hour or more to cook a chicken on a kettle barbecue, you’ll understand why this spicy chicken sajji recipe takes some time.

This is a great recipe for campfire cooking and I cook it often when time isn’t an issue.

Sprinkled with chaat masala to serve. Chicken sajji is so good.

A bit of chicken sajji info…

Originally from Pakistan, chicken sajji has a delicious smoky flavour and it’s even cooked without a smoker! The whole bird is cooked on a skewer over and next to a hot fire.

Originally, sajji was done with a whole goat just like the chicken sajji you see here.

The idea was to cook it really slowly to allow it to smoke and become really succulent before placing the skewered meat right above the coals to char some. 

Nowadays, chicken sajji is much more common because it’s smaller, cheaper and much more convenient to serve at street food stalls and restaurants.

I’ve been told the both goat and chicken sajji used to be made with a simple marinade of salt and vinegar but you are very likely to find spicier versions these days. 

Getting the spicing right.

I have used a very simple marinade which for some might be a bit too spicy.

It’s really not all that hot but if you are concerned, use fewer dried and fresh chillies and most definitely try the marinade before using it all. 

You can always use less of it.

What’s different about chicken sajji?

Chicken is usually cooked without skin in the Indian subcontinent. Chicken sajji is cooked skin on. 

The skin not only adds moisture to the chicken but also stops the spices from burning over the hot fire as the spices are all rubbed inside and under the skin.

The skin is only seasoned with perhaps a little vinegar and salt. 

In addition to the spices that go into the marinade, chicken sajji is also served sprinkled generously with chaat masala. 

I’m telling you… this grilled chicken recipe is to die for!

How long does it take to cook chicken sajji?

Let’s just say it takes a while but you can of course speed things up if needed.

I never make chicken sajji if I’m in a rush as the lengthy smoking time really adds to the flavour.

If you can allow about three hours, it’s best as the chicken will be almost cooked through and then you can just char it over the hot coals to finish up.

Of course you could do that sooner if needed but I hope you wait it out and experience chicken sajji the way it should be.

How is chicken sajji cooked in pakistan?

A friend of mine from Lahore showed me photos and videos on his phone of a chicken sajji takeaway stand.

Where I am cooking two chickens today, it was a much larger operation.

You could see up to 50 chickens being cooked next to a big fire pit all at the same time. As the skewered chickens are almost cooked in the front, they are moved to the back to allow other chickens  behind them to cook. 

When the chickens are toasty brown and almost cooked through, they are then placed directly over the hot coals to char. The charred skin becomes almost flaky and is then rubbed off to serve. 

What if I don’t have skewers?

You can still make this! I did it once the beer can chicken way.

Just open a couple of cold lagers and drink half from each can. Then place the carcass over the can and set them next to the fire. It’s actually easier than messing about with skewers.

You could also do this on long sticks.

Although it’s not done in Pakistan that I’ve seen, if you have a grill for the final cooking over the coals, it’s a lot easier.

Step by step photos…

Marinade for chicken sajji

Whisk all the marinade ingredients together.

Run your fingers under the skin and loosen it completely from the meat.

Marinating meat

Score the flesh in places and then rub the marinade over the meat and in the cavity. Allow to marinate for 20 hours or overnight.

Chicken sajji ready for cooking.

Run a skewer through one of the thighs and out the front breast. Then tie the legs together.

Chickens smoking

Place the skewers somewhere near the fire and have a beer. I stick raw potatoes at the end of my skewers so they don’t slip off.

Chickens cooking

Be sure to rotate the chickens so that they cook evenly.

Chicken on a skewer

After a couple of hours, the chicken will be almost cooked through and lightly browned.

Charred chickens

To finish, place the cooked chicken right over the hot coals to char.

Cooked chickens

THe blackened bits of skin just rub off.

chicken sajji

Dig in!

If you enjoy this chicken sajji recipe, you might like to try some of these too…

Chicken Seekh Kebabs
Lamb seekh kebabs
Lamb and cheese kebabs
Stuffed potato kebabs

Yield: 6

Chicken Sajji - Whole Chicken Cooked on a Skewer

Cooked chickens
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 2 seconds
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes 2 seconds


  • 2 x 1.5kg (3 lb) chicken with skin on
  • 4 tbsp red chilli flakes
  • 1 ½  tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 3 tbsp garlic, ginger and chilli paste
  • 6 tbsp white distilled vinegar


  1. Pour the chilli flakes, 1 tbsp of the salt, the ground coriander, cumin, garlic and ginger paste and 5 tbsp of the vinegar into a mixing bowl.
  2. Stir well to make a thick paste and set aside.
  3. Carefully run your fingers beneath the skin of the chicken to separate it from the meat and make a few shallow slits in the flesh of the breasts and thighs.
  4. Rub the marinade into the flesh and inside the carcass reserving about 2 tbsp for later. Then rub the remaining salt and vinegar into the skin. Allow to marinate for at least two hours or overnight.
  5. When ready to cook, build a log fire using kiln dried logs. I use a combination of oak and apple. Skewer the chicken by running a skewer through one of the thighs and then straight through the centre and out one of the breasts.
  6. Tie the legs together tightly so that the chicken doesn’t slide down the skewer while cooking. Although this isn't done by the professionals, I also put a potato at the end of the skewer to help secure the chicken.
  7. Stick the skewer in the ground right next to the fire. You can also move some of the coals right under the skewered chickens for additional heat.
  8. Now it’s time to grab a beer and relax. At this stage your both cooking and smoking the chicken. You can do that for a couple hours if you want or speed it all up by adding more logs and getting the chicken closer to the fire.
  9. Chicken sajji is normally cook low and slow and then moved to a position right over the hot fire to finish it off when you are ready to eat. You could cook this recipe in just over an hour or let it cook much longer for even more delicious smoky flavour.
  10. When you move the chicken skewers directly over the coals, you can baste it with the remaining marinade which can easily burn the spices but it actually tastes pretty good. Serve with lemon wedges, a green salad and saffron rice.

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